Food Stories

dolma – the far east tradition

Sometimes it is really interesting to know that how the two distinctly divergent culture shares a similar cuisine or how a particular dish which has evolved independently in two distinct country shares a common lineage. And the dolma is exactly the point in case.

For generations after generations people in Bengal (East India) relish dolma which they love to prepare on special occasions. Potol er dolma is a classic dish in Bengali cuisine whereby the stout pointed gourds are stuffed with prawns or scraped coconut mix with dry fruits or minced meat or boneless fish and even with vegetables like mushrooms or mashed potatoes and paneer. Dolma is very much rooted in Bengal and so when I do a special series on Bengali New Year I showcase this dish as one of the entree. potol er dolma (stuffed pointed gourd) It never occur to me that whether the word “dolma” actually present in Bengali literature and language or not.

potol er dolma

potol er dolma or stuffed pointed gourd

Until few days back when the same post on potol er dolma got a pingback from a blog on Libyan food a new world of cuisine has dawned upon me. Read here for more dolma recipe and explore Libyan food FoodLibya. According to foodlibya and my subsequent research on web reveals that the word “dolma “has its root in Turkish language. As per Wikipedia “dolma “refers to any kind of stuffed vegetable which are hallowed or scooped out and are filled with minced meat, or vegetables. So the tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants and like all become dolma dishes. Dolma is the cuisine of former Ottoman Empire and neighboring regions and with time it invaded the Mediterranean region and south Asia too. So the Greeks, Portuguese, Libyan, Azerbaijan, Turks, Iraqis, Albanians, Armenians, Iranians, Syrians all have their own variant of dolma, be it stuffing the vegetables or wrapping with vine or cabbage leaves (which was actually known as “sarma” and later merged with dolma). Read here in detail what Wiki says about dolma dolma from wiki.

But how did the “dolma” reach the Indian shores? The answer perhaps lies in the fact that Calcutta, the then capital of India was the hotspot for seafaring maritime. So it may have come through Portuguese or Dutch or may have some Armenian connections (who made Calcutta as their second home) and with time infused with the Bengali cuisine by absorbing the local flavor and evolving into a new dish but retaining the original name. So in the present form the stuffed pointed gourds are being cooked in light onion ginger gravy so that it can be eaten with rice, the staple diet of Bengal and whole south Asia.


  • Reply
    Tweets that mention dolma – the far east tradition « saffronstreaks… a food and travel blog --
    October 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by saffron streaks, saffron streaks. saffron streaks said: dolma – the far east tradition: […]

  • Reply
    Sarah Elmusrati
    October 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Just read your post and loved it! I’m keen to look further into the history of dolma, let me know if you come up with anything interesting!

    • Reply
      October 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm

      thanx Sarah. If I have come across any other intersting facts on dolma, will surely let you know.

  • Reply
    potoler dolma « saffronstreaks … a food and travel blog
    August 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    […] here to know how the dish “potoler dolma” […]

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